Monday, September 10, 2012

The (Real) Universe

Regarding "The Purpose of the Universe" by Rabbi David Wolpe on Huffington Post, and also in reply to these silly, silly statements by so many contemporary Christian theologians claiming that fundamentalism and the doctrine of the inerrancy of Scripture are no more than two centuries old:

I recently obtained a reprint copy of the 1617 edition of Copernicus' De revolutionisbus. Here is the same edition on Google Books. It's very science-y, with a lot of diagrams and a lot of tables of astronomical observations, which is not usually my thing in reading material. But this book caused such a furor for so long and was at the heart of so much conflict between science and religion that I wanted to get back to the source of the ruckus and see what caused so many people to flip out, in both positive and negative reactions. I wanted to study the original untranslated text.

It knocks me out, the extremely painstaking, methodical way in which Copernicus -- a priest -- lays out his case and turns the mental world of his day upside-down -- or right-side-up, if you will.

And the response to all this careful observation of the movements of the objects in the sky and careful reading of thousands of years' worth of other scholars' observations on the subject? Luther's response, and Melanchthon's response, and the Holy See's response -- for once the Lutherans and the Vatican were in perfect agreement -- was: this contradicts Holy Scripture, therefore it is false and wicked and must be suppressed. As one reads Copernicus -- even a lay reader like myself -- one's admiration for him and one's anger against his dull-witted, all-powerful opponents grows and grows.

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